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How do Lord of the Flies and Macbeth compare in reference to the themes of moral...

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emcic | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 17, 2010 at 7:00 AM via web

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How do Lord of the Flies and Macbeth compare in reference to the themes of moral choice and ambition?

What I am trying to say is what is similar in lord of the flies and macbeth in regards to the theme moral choice and ambition.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM (Answer #1)

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Interestingly, there are, indeed, similarities between the characters of Jack in Lord of the Flies, and Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Faced with the leadership of another, both characters choose to overthrow this leadership; Jack does this by anarchy, Macbeth by murderous deeds.  Their descents into evil are the result of their "vaulting ambition" which leads them further and further into moral degradation to which they become so accustomed that they cannot turn back.  Instead, Jack "masks" his savage acts by painting his face and generating frenzied rituals while Macbeth assigns responsibility to the preternatural world and follows the path directed by the evil sisters, finding purpose for his actions in their direction.

For both characters, also, all reason is abandoned in their terrible descent into evil.  Jack steals the fire, which represents power, from Ralph and the others, and Piggy's glasses, which represent rationality.  His sadistic group member, Roger, dashes Piggy against the rock, sending him hurling into the sea.  Likewise, Macbeth engages in a blood lust in which he murders Duncan and his servants, Banquo, then Macduff's wife and son, along with the servants and three murderers.

In embracing evil, both characters lose control of themselves.  In his soliloquy of Act V, Macbeth declares that he has

...no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition which o'erleaps itself

And falls on th'other (1.7.25-28)

Then, by the end of the play he realizes that his way of life "Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf" (5.3.24).  Faced with his actions as the naval officer stands over him, Jack starts forward, then stops, changing his mind, a "little boy" again.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 17, 2010 at 7:11 AM (Answer #2)

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In my opinion, you can definitely find similarities between Jack and the character Macbeth (as opposed to the play).  Both of them are people who have made the choice to be ruthless in pursuit of their ambition.  In each case, it is not completely their fault, but ultimately, they choose to pursue ambition rather than to try to be "good."

Both Jack and Macbeth are put in tempting situations.  Macbeth is told by the witches that he will be king.  Jack is given this opportunity to be on the island where no one has any authority over him.  So they are both put in situations through no fault of their own.

But then they both choose to pursue their ambitions.  Macbeth chooses to start killing in order to get and keep the throne.  Jack chooses to become more and more violent (to, for example, steal Piggy's glasses in a violent raid and to try to kill Ralph).

So both characters want power and both characters choose to be violent and brutal to get that power.  In this way, both are saying similar things about the themes of ambition and moral choice.

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spottydoodle | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 28, 2011 at 4:51 AM (Answer #3)

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“Lord of the Flies” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth” are both representative of different genres; one is an allegory wartime novel and the other is a Renaissance tragedy set around 950 years apart.

Jack is quickly shown to be the antagonist in the novel, descending rapidly towards savagery, losing sight of his civilised English upbringing and showing his sadistic side. He is aggressive, dominant, arrogant and envious.  From the beginning of the novel it is obvious that Jack desires power, and it appears that the more savage he becomes, the more control he has over the rest of the group.  Indeed, the majority of the group follow Jack in casting off moral restraint and embracing savagery.

Early on in the novel Jack sticks to the behavior considered socially acceptable at the time, having chosen to a hunter and then given a position of responsibility over the choir, but he rapidly becomes dissatisfied with his lack of power over the group and starts to push the boundaries of his subordinate role.

Jack’s disregard for the Conch’s authority sets him apart from the organised leadership and portrays him as something of a rebel. Jack doesn't respect the authority of the conch or Ralph and so breaks the rules. Jack calls a meeting using the conch to discuss the ‘beast’, and attempts to vote Ralph from power ‘“Hands up,” said Jack strongly, “Whoever thinks Ralph oughtn’t be chief?”’. Nobody raises their hand, and in humiliation and dismay Jack declares ‘”I’m not going to be part of Ralph’s lot-“’. He leaves and breaks up the assembly - he is destructive to organised leadership. Jack’s departure leads to the breakdown of the group, with the majority choosing to join Jack in his new ‘tribe’.

At the beginning of the play, Macbeth meets three weïrd sisters, who prophesise his rise to power: “All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Glamis. All hail Macbeth, hail to thee, Thane of Cawdor. All hail Macbeth, that shalt be king hereafter.”  Once Macbeth receives news that the treacherous thane of Cawdor has been sentenced to death, and he is now thane, Macbeth weighs the moral implications of the witches’ prediction. He is horrified at the thought of killing Duncan, but resolves to accept whatever has to be. He sends news of the witches’ prediction to his wife. Lady Macbeth read’s her husband’s letter telling her of the Witches’ prophecy of kingship. She analyses his nature, fearing that he is too decent and squeamish to murder Duncan for the crown. Lady Macbeth urges Macbeth to hide his deadly intentions beneath welcoming looks “Look like th’innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t”. Duncan arrives at Macbeth’s castle as Macbeth struggles with his conscience: killing Duncan will result in vengeance; there are compelling reasons against the murder, but ambition is spurring him on. Macbeth declares his decision not to kill Duncan, and Lady Macbeth accuses him of cowardice. She is very persuasive, and the impression is given that she knows exactly how to get her way with Macbeth – she has him wrapped around her finger. Lady Macbeth’s stabbing questions show her contempt for her husband’s lack of will “Wouldst thou have that which thou esteem’st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting I dare not wait upon I would, like the poor cat i’th’adage?”.

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